On day one of Plastic Free July, I set out to find a (vegan) loaf of bread that isn’t wrapped in plastic.
This was a much more difficult task than I’d imagined it would be.
I live in a city, but on the fringes, with very few independent shops. Our local corner shop is a Tesco; our nearest large shop is an Asda. The closest independent bakery is a car journey away.
So I decided to see what was available within walking distance.
The shelves in our local Asda are rammed with dozens of different brands of bread, and the vast majority are packed in a plastic bag. There’s also an in-store bakery; it too packages all of its bread in plastic wrapping. A lot of the in-store bakery wrapping is actually left open, so it isn’t serving much purpose.
To ensure a fair comparison, I tried our local Tesco, and the results were much the same. It’s a small store which only carries big brands and a few plastic-wrapped Tesco loaves. (Although this kind of plastic is generally easy to recycle, it’s better not to buy it in the first place.)
In the end, I plumped for a Warburtons Toastie, which was the only brand I saw that’s packaged in greaseproof paper. Greaseproof wrap like this can’t be recycled, but I said at the beginning of Plastic Free July that I would go for reusable options over recyclable ones.
And because greaseproof can be reused several times as a food wrap, it ticks both boxes.
(Bonus! It was also reduced.)
The ideal solution in this scenario is to buy bread without any packaging at all, which means getting it from a local bakery, or a supermarket that sells loaves loose. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, we don’t have one nearby, but this highlighted the fact that I could be planning ahead a bit better and buying a few loaves at a time.
Crusty bread should always be packed in paper to prevent it going soft anyway; Asda could learn a thing or two from this.
If your local bakery doesn’t pack bread in paper, a clean cotton bag is the best zero waste option. Rather than buying a specific ‘bread bag’, you could use anything that’s 100% cotton, like a tote bag, or even a pillowcase. Bread can also be frozen in cotton as long as it’s double-wrapped.